How accurate are online estimates?

online estimates

online estimatesWhether you’re generating leads through social media or your website, the goal is to nurture those leads from initial contact into a paying customer or patient. Over the years, we have studied how price transparency1 – the idea that using a Price Estimator on your website2 that provides automated quotes in exchange for the consumer’s contact info – can capture leads, educate the consumer in regards to the cost of a procedure to reduce sticker shock at the time of consultation, resulting in more scheduled procedures.


How our data has evolved

When we first started evaluating the benefits of price transparency as a lead generation tool, our data points were pretty simple. Mostly our team wanted to know, of the patients that checked pricing on our website, how many came in for a consult and how many booked a procedure. But as you’ll see below, the data points evaluated and hypotheses tested with each successive study has led to a deeper appreciation of price transparency’s benefits.


Aside from my data, Dr. Bradley Hubbard3, a plastic surgeon in Dallas with the Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute4 and Dr. Tim Sayed5 of the San Diego/La Jolla area measured other aspects of leads generated through the Price Estimators on their respective websites.


Data from Pacific Heights Plastic Surgery

In my practice, our belief was that a patient would be more likely to book a procedure at the time of consultation if they were aware of price ahead of time. Our results were published in this peer-reviewed journal6. In short, 17.8% of leads through our Price Estimator came in for a consultation. Of those, 62.2% booked a procedure. As suspected, our study showed patients were 41% more like to book a procedure immediately if they were price-aware at the time of the consultation. Because we collected our data over the course of a year, we had the benefit of a longer “snapshot” in which to measure the booking rate.


Dr. Bradley Hubbard’s data

Dr. Hubbard’s data also benefitted from a yearlong collection of data. Of the 1,522 unique leads he received from pricing inquiries via his price estimator, 105 individuals came in for a consultation. While the percentage (7%) may be lower than what was found in the data in my practice, the absolute number of consultations generated was greater.


His procedure booking rate from these patients was consistently 80% within six months of the consultation. Dr. Hubbard also mathematically determined his cost per lead (CPL) over the year and found it to be $12.75 per lead! This online source7 suggests the CPL within healthcare is $162. Dr. Hubbard’s experience is clearly less expensive. He also noted that because “how much does it cost?” is such an oft-asked question, using a “Get A Quote Now” call to action button8 on his website generated 75% of the leads added to his email database used for email marketing.


Dr. Tim Sayed’s data

Dr. Sayed’s data collection for his individual study was conducted from May 1st through June 22nd, 2021. Substantially shorter than the year timeframe for the studies conducted through my site and Dr. Hubbard’s. However. he was measuring another aspect of lead generation less dependent on time: whether the procedures chosen by patients through his price estimator were significantly different than the procedures recommended by him once the patient was seen in consultation.


The perceived inaccuracy of online estimates is often cited as a reason not to provide pricing at all. The conventional wisdom being that consumers don’t have enough fundamental knowledge to choose the “right” procedure from a list and are therefore surprised or disappointed to find out the procedure they expected is different than the procedure their doctor recommends.


Dr. Sayed’s price estimator generated 86 unique leads over the course of the study. 14 patients came in for a consultation, a lead-to-consultation rate of 16.28%, comparable to my experience of 17.8% above. 5 of the 14 consultations (35.71%) have already booked surgery in this short timeframe. This rate is sure to increase over the course of the year as patients get their finances in order.


All 5 patients that booked surgery selected a breast procedure when using the price estimator on his site and all five were candidates for breast procedures. There were some cases where they also needed a lift as part of their en bloc capsulectomy and implant removal or also need fat grafting in addition to these en bloc resections. In all, the difference in cost between their estimated online quote and their actual procedure costs varied by 10.62%. This can not be considered a variation so great as to label online estimates as too inaccurate to be helpful to the patient.



Over the years, objections to offering patients online estimates9 have included a fear that

  • patients would focus on price rather than physician expertise
  • competitors would see a physician’s prices or …
  • estimates would be too inaccurate to be useful.

We have to recognize that a practice isn’t always a good fit for every patient. There are the patients that focus solely on cost when choosing a doctor, and there are patients that value expertise but still want to know cost ahead to time to ensure it’s within their budget. The former is an example of a price shopper. The latter is not.


A price estimator is effective in weeding out the price shoppers from serious potential patients.


In regards to the concern that competitors could see your pricing on your site? Better they check your pricing through an automated price estimator on your site rather than calling your office, posing as a secret shopper, and wasting your office’s staff time on a pricing inquiry that will never lead to a consult.


Lastly, based on Dr. Sayed’s data and these findings10, online estimates are at most, very accurate, and at least, accurate within a degree that is still useful and actionable for the patient.


Dr. Jonathan Kaplan is a board-certified plastic surgeon based in San Francisco, CA and founder/CEO of BuildMyBod Health11, a price transparency-lead generation platform. You can watch him operate and educate @realdrbae on Instagram12, Snapchat13 and TikTok.14


















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